It’s official. The quahog has made it to the big leagues; the shellfish has its own app for iPhone and iPads.
The mobile gaming app, called “Quahogs,” allows gamers to become a diver searching for quahogs in the bay. Former Warwick resident Mark Ferbert created it to bring a piece of home to the mobile world.
Ferbert grew up in Warwick, first in Conimicut, then in the Church Avenue, West Shore Road area. A computer programmer by trade, Ferbert decided he wanted to try creating apps. Quahogs is his eighth app on Apple’s App Store, inspired by his step-father, Gerry Schey, a West Greenwich shell fisherman who catches and sells cong, quahogs and other shellfish.
“He’s out on the Bay everyday,” said Ferbert. “It is a very, very difficult physical job.”
Ferbert says he did go out on the boat with Schey while he was growing up and that is why he works inside on a computer.
So Ferbert, a graduate of Warwick Veterans Memorial High School in 1985, brought the world of shellfishing to the palm of one’s hand.
In the game, the user controls a diver who swims to the bottom to dig for quahogs using a rake at the end of his hand. After each level, the player sells their quahogs for a daily buy price to earn “clams” (i.e. 5 clams instead of $5).
With Schey’s help, Ferbert plans to match the buy price in his game to the current buy price for quahogs, updating as necessary. Schey keeps Ferbert informed about any price changes so he can change the price in the game.
Also, there are a few obstacles for users to avoid during game play.
“You also have to avoid jelly fish that can sting you while you are diving to the bottom, or surfacing to get air,” explained Ferbert.
He acknowledges that diving for quahogs is not the common way shellfishermen collect their prize. They would be on a boat, using rakes at the end of steel stales to dig up the quahogs. But what kind of game would that be?
“If [the app] was on a boat, it would have been really boring cause you would have just been standing there,” said Ferbert with a laugh, saying he thought using a diver would just make for more interactive and interesting game play.
Ferbert explained that users cannot do anything with the clams they earn for now, but that might change.
“There is really nothing you can do with them yet. Right now, it’s basically for bragging rights,” he explained, adding that one day he may create a game update so users can use their clams to earn advantages in the game. An update could also add more obstacles for players. However, he has no plans for updates just yet; he wants to see if the game becomes popular first.
Ferbert lives in Houston, Texas, where he works as a computer programmer from home. He had visited the Houston area to meet with a client while working for a Boston-based company and decided to move there in 1998. Down the road, Ferbert hopes to make creating apps his career.
“I love programming,” said Ferbert, adding that he loves the creativity involved with creating apps. “I would love to not depend on another company. I would love to support myself.”
But for now, that goal is a ways down the road. “Quahogs” has only sold 10 downloads so far.
“I would love to sell 10 million of them. But my goal right now is 1 million,” said Ferbert. “I’ve had 10 downloads, which is .001 percent of 1 million and that matches the population of Rhode Island.”
All of Ferbert’s apps are games, many with an educational component, costing 99 cents each. Ferbert is looking into making his apps free with advertisements, but that could only occur once they gain more popularity.
He says he has chosen to create mainly gaming apps because there are so many utility apps on the market already, it is hard to come up with a unique idea.
“There are actually a million apps on the App Store now,” pointed out Ferbert.
He hopes “Quahogs” stands out.
“There’s nothing like it out there,” he said.
“Quahogs” is also Ferbert’s first time diving into creating apps for Apple’s newest iOS 7 operating system.
“‘Quahogs’ is very simple, but I liked what I was able to do with iOS 7,” said Ferbert.
Although he is a software developer, Ferbert said he does not work with Mac or Apple often, so he had to teach himself how to use the different systems.
His apps are a side business, and Ferbert said it usually takes two months to complete one app.
“I only have nights and weekends, so [it takes] a couple of months. That’s doing it every night and weekend,” said Ferbert, adding that if he was a full-time app creator, he could probably make them faster.
“I would love to do nothing but this. I just love creating things,” said Ferbert. “My goal is to make enough money to be able to just do apps.”
Ferbert said he would be willing to create his own apps or have contracts to create apps for other people or companies. In fact, he explained that his education app, “My Dog Has Fleas,” which helps children learn their multiplication tables, has prompted one small educational company to contact him to create a similar app using their mascot. That contract is still pending, and Ferbert is not sure what will happen with it.
To find out more about Ferbert’s apps, search “Mark Ferbert” in the App Store or check out his website, www.markferbert.com.